300 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of East Asia about their New Books

New Books in East Asian Studies New Books Network

    • Society & Culture

Interviews with Scholars of East Asia about their New Books

    Charlene Makley, "The Battle for Fortune: State-led Development, Personhood, and Power among Tibetans in China" (Cornell UP, 2018)

    Charlene Makley, "The Battle for Fortune: State-led Development, Personhood, and Power among Tibetans in China" (Cornell UP, 2018)

    Rebgong, in the Northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau (China’s Qinghai Province), is in the midst of a ‘Battle for Fortune.’ That is, a battle to both accumulate as much fortune, but also a battle to decide which definitions of fortune are going to dominate Tibetan society: a material fortune based in ‘authoritarian capitalism’ or a Buddhist form of ‘counterdevelopment’ based in traditional ideas about language, landscapes, and compassion.
    In The Battle for Fortune: State-led Development, Personhood, and Power among Tibetans in China (Cornell University Press, 2018), Charlene Makley, Professor of anthropology at Reed College, intermixes these tensions while also exploring her own experience attempting to conduct fieldwork immediately before and after a series of demonstrations rocked Tibet in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Using a form of multi-sited, ‘dialogic ethnography’ from linguistic anthropology, Charlene Makley considers Tibetans’ encounters with development projects as a historically situated interpretive politics, in which people negotiate the presence or absence of moral and authoritative persons and their associated jurisdictions and powers. Because most Tibetans view the active presence of deities and other invisible and autochthonous beings as the ground of power, causation, and fertile or fortunate landscapes, Makley also takes divine beings as some of the important interlocutors for Tibetans. The Battle for Fortune, therefore challenges readers to grasp the unique reality of Tibetans’ values and fears in the face of their marginalization in China.
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    • 1 hr 27 min
    Daniel Mattingly, "The Art of Political Control in China" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

    Daniel Mattingly, "The Art of Political Control in China" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

    Tocqueville and Putnam insist that civil society helps individuals flourish and resist authority, but Daniel C. Mattingly’s decade of research in rural China leads him to conclude that civil society offers officials leverage over citizens that strengthens the state’s coercive capacity. In his book The Art of Political Control in China (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Mattingly argues that civil society can encourage contributions to public goods like roads, schools, and charities, civil associations increase the prestige and authority of local elites who can help insure political compliance. Civil society groups help officials in rural China tamp down protest, requisite land, and enforce mandatory birth quotas. Instead of focusing on oppressive formal institutions such secret police or the military, Mattingly looks to the ways in which civic associations may be used to apply hidden pressure on citizens through informal institutions.
    Mattingly’s extensive field work, experiments embedded in face-to-face surveys, and datasets from villages point to three ways in which the state uses civil society to coerce. First, the state collects information and tracks behavior – such that the presence of a temple or lineage associations leads to more land requisitions and few protests. Second, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) coopts local elites by including them in political bodies. These local officials understand which citzens have grievances and are the most likely to mobilize against the state. Last, the state creates infiltrating institutions with street level agents are able to spy, coax, or snitch. This rich book combines detailed qualitative case studies with clear prose. Mattingly provides details for those well-versed in Chinese political systems and translates for political scientists seeking a more nuanced understanding of authoritarianism and civil society.
    Mattingly is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale University.
    Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013).
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    • 39 min
    Eric Setzekor, "The Rise and Fall of an Officer Corps: The Republic of China Military, 1942-1955" (U Oklahoma Press, 2018)

    Eric Setzekor, "The Rise and Fall of an Officer Corps: The Republic of China Military, 1942-1955" (U Oklahoma Press, 2018)

    Following the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, two antipodal ideologies vied for control of China's military. The first, advanced by Sun Yat-sen, leader of the Kuomintang (KMT), maintained that the military was little more than an organ of the KMT party apparatus. As such, the Chinese army was a "party-army," beholden to the KMT's will, and subservient to KMT demands. Opposing the "party-army" ideology was a cadre of nationalistic, cosmopolitan Chinese officers, who sought to fashion the army into a professional, technically proficient, and independent institution, loyal not to any one party, but to the Chinese nation. The dynamic of this previously unexamined struggle is the subject of Eric Setzekorn's erudite study, The Rise and Fall of an Officer Corps: The Republic of China Military, 1942-1955 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2018).
    Between 1942 and 1955, Setzekorn argues, professionally-minded officers within the KMT leveraged their military partnership with the United States to build China's first truly national army. Exemplified by General Sun Li-jen, these officers promulgated and defined a professional identity and ethos, forged technological and intellectual bonds with the armed forces of the United States, and nurtured Chinese aspirations to great power status. The "party-army" concept reached its nadir during this period, but it was not forgotten. Defeat at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, combined with a substantive shift in Sino-American security arrangements, allowed "party-army" adherents to reassert control. From 1949 to 1954, Setzekorn observes, KMT leaders began the process of re-politicizing the army; a process that culminated with a purge of key professional officers in 1955.
    Informed by a wealth of Chinese-language sources, military journals, and previously unavailable archival materials, Setzerkorn offers valuable insight into the cultural and professional development of China's officer corps in the Republican era. At the same time, Setzerkorn's work adds to our understanding of the United States's post-Second World War "army-building" program in east Asia. The Republic of China army, Setzerkorn argues, provided the blueprint for subsequent Cold War military partnerships with Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan.
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    • 59 min
    K. Linder et al., "Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers" (Stylus Publishing, 2020)

    K. Linder et al., "Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers" (Stylus Publishing, 2020)

    If you’re a grad student facing the ugly reality of finding a tenure-track job, you could easily be forgiven for thinking about a career change. However, if you’ve spent the last several years working on a PhD, or if you’re a faculty member whose career has basically consisted of higher ed, switching isn’t so easy. PhD holders are mostly trained to work as professors, and making easy connections to other careers is no mean feat. Because the people you know were generally trained to do the same sorts of things, an easy source of advice might not be there for you.
    Thankfully, for anybody who wishes there was a guidebook that would just break all of this down, that book has now been written. Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers (Stylus Publishing, 2020) by Kathryn E. Linder, Kevin Kelly, and Thomas J. Tobin offers practical advice and step-by-step instructions on how to decide if you want to leave behind academia and how to start searching for a new career. If a lot of career advice is too vague or too ambiguous, this book corrects that by outlining not just how to figure out what you might want to do, but critically, how you might go about accomplishing that.
    Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.
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    • 39 min
    Mark Gamsa, “Manchuria: A Concise History” (Bloomsbury, 2020)

    Mark Gamsa, “Manchuria: A Concise History” (Bloomsbury, 2020)

    The term ‘Manchuria’ conjures up all manner of evocative associations for people interested in East Asian and world history, from the Manchu founders of China’s last imperial dynasty, to Russian railroads and Japanese empire on the Asian mainland. Up to now, however, there hasn’t really been a particularly obvious place to look for a satisfying source of information about these and other aspects of the region’s fascinating past and present.
    Mark Gamsa’s Manchuria: A Concise History (I. B. Tauris, 2020) therefore meets a significant need, deftly weaving together the many diffuse strands which make up the history of what we now call northeast China. Conveniently broken down into easily digestible chunks, each dealing with a key historic juncture and the parties involved, the book sheds light on both known and overlooked aspects of Manchurian life.
    Ed Pulford is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.
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    • 51 min
    Filippo Marsili, "Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China" (SUNY Press, 2018)

    Filippo Marsili, "Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China" (SUNY Press, 2018)

    Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China (SUNY Press, 2018) offers a new comparative perspective on the role of the sacred in the formation of China’s early empires (221 BCE–9 CE) and shows how the unification of the Central States was possible without a unitary and universalistic conception of religion. The cohesive function of the ancient Mediterranean cult of the divinized ruler was crucial for the legitimization of Rome’s empire across geographical and social boundaries. Eventually reelaborated in Christian terms, it came to embody the timelessness and universality of Western conceptions of legitimate authority, while representing an analytical template for studying other ancient empires.
    Filippo Marsili challenges such approaches in his examination of the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han (141–87 BCE). Wu purposely drew from regional traditions and tried to gain the support of local communities through his patronage of local cults. He was interested in rituals that envisioned the monarch as a military leader, who directly controlled the land and its resources, as a means for legitimizing radical administrative and economic centralization. In reconstructing this imperial model, Marsili reinterprets fragmentary official accounts in light of material evidence and noncanonical and recently excavated texts. In bringing to life the courts, battlefields, markets, shrines, and pleasure quarters of early imperial China, Heaven Is Empty provides a postmodern and postcolonial reassessment of “religion” before the arrival of Buddhism and challenges the application of Greco-Roman and Abrahamic systemic, identitary, and exclusionary notions of the “sacred” to the analysis of pre-Christian and non-Western realities.
    Victoria Oana Lupascu is a PhD candidate in dual-title doctoral program in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her areas of interest include 20th and 21st Chinese literature and visual art, medical humanities and Global South studies. 
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    • 1 hr 18 min

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